LA-based Actors Will Reveal inside Hollywood at Workshop Series
French-born actor Paris Benjamin says “you don’t really need talent to be a working actor.”
Benjamin, who attended Stetson University as an exchange student from 1998 to 2000, has landed roles in such TV shows as “Scandal,” “NCIS” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” and the film “Star Trek: Into Darkness.”
“The way from the start, and not doing so was my major mistake, is to look at acting as a business right away,” she says. “Right away, and not just think (affects a snooty tone) ‘art, craft.’ ”
Benjamin and fellow actor Michael Taylor Gray currently are in residence at Stetson where, along with Professor of Theatre Arts Ken McCoy, Ph.D., they will each be directing one of the one-act works in “Sticking It to the Man: 3 Plays that Pushed Back.”
Before those plays are staged Nov. 16-18 at Stetson’s Second Stage Theatre in the Museum of Art – DeLand, Benjamin and Gray will present four workshop/lectures.
The first, titled “The Biz of Show Biz,” will be presented at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25, at Second Stage. The presentation is subtitled “Two LA actors discuss the ups and downs, ins and outs, and how things get done in Hollywood.” Cultural credit is available for students.
The workshops will cover such topics as “demystifying” Hollywood, and how celebrity, media, networking and acting skills lead to success in the entertainment industry.
“You literally have to have 12 jobs as an actor,” says Gray, whose credits include roles in such TV shows as “Without a Trace,” “Will & Grace” and “My Name Is Earl,” and the film, “Not Easily Broken.”
“You’re running a business and you have to spend money to make money,” he says. “It’s not about talent in this business. There are so many other factors that are so beyond our control.”
Both actors cite the necessity of maintaining an internet presence, both through one’s own website and what Gray calls the “the onslaught of places that we as actors have to be” – sites that charge actors fees for posting resumes, video clips and headshots.
“I don’t want to be anything but an actor,” Benjamin says. “But I just don’t have a choice. I have to be an entrepreneur. I have to know how to do my own website. I have to know how to cut my own videos. I have to know how to use iMovie. I have to know how to do all that stuff that I have zero interest in.”
“I don’t think a lot of actors outside of the hubs of New York, LA and Chicago realize how much time, money and daily effort it takes to do this,” says Gray, who performed in plays directed by McCoy at the Huron Playhouse in Ohio. “It’s not just submitting your headshot or going to an audition. It’s so much more than that.”
“For me, acting is 80 percent business, 10 percent talent and 10 percent luck or whatever you want to call it,” Benjamin says. “But once I’m in front of the camera, it’s so fulfilling and rewarding that I forget everything else. Even if it’s to say one line in a show – which is crap, to be honest. But just to say one line in a show, I’m like ‘Well, I’m in my element.’ That’s all I want.”
“I get frustrated,” says Gray, who also has worked extensively in theater in Los Angeles. “Do I want to act in certain venues and film and TV? Of course. But I can act anywhere. I’ll be an actor for the rest of my life. It’s in my DNA.”
Benjamin and Gray will present two lecture/talk-back sessions and two master classes as part of Stetson University’s Artists and Lecturers Series. Each program will be at Stetson Theatre Arts’ Second Stage inside the Museum of Art – DeLand, 600 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand. All four programs are free and open to the public. Observers are welcome at the two master class sessions, but participation is open only to student actors. Here’s the lineup:
- “The Biz of Show Biz,” 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25.
- “The Actor as Entrepreneur,” 1:30-3:00 p.m. Monday, Oct. 30. This program will focus on the two actors’ specific personal experiences forging a career path, with anecdotes and more.
- Actors’ Branding Master Class, 1-2:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2. Three to six randomly selected student actors will be selected to participate as examples of how to use one’s “character type” to one’s advantage. The remainder of the attendees will observe and comment.
- Cold Reading and Building a Character Master Class, 1-2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7. Open to all student actors interested in improving their chances of getting cast, this workshop will put participants in a professional audition simulation.
— Rick de Yampert